Katherine Jenkins OBE chats with Kevin Cooper about covering Stormzy’s Blinded By Your Grace, Sir Bryn Terfel singing her son Xander to sleep, her latest album Guiding Light and next year’s tour of the UK

Katherine Jenkins OBE is a Welsh lyric mezzo-soprano singer and songwriter, best known for her classical crossover songs.

She came to wide public attention in 2003 when she sang at Westminster Cathedral in honour of Pope John Paul II’s silver jubilee. Since 2004, she has released numerous albums that have performed well on both British and foreign charts. In both 2005 and 2006, her albums received Classic Brit Awards as Album of the Year. She has also been seen widely in concert, including performing for British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. She has also sung at sporting events, on television shows and in support of many charities. In spring 2012, she competed on the U.S. television show Dancing With The Stars, finishing in second place, behind NFL Super Bowl champion Donald Driver.

Katherine will be touring her new album, Guiding Light around the UK in April and May, performing eighteen English dates, alongside concerts in Glasgow, Belfast and Dublin, plus Cardiff and Llandudno in her native Wales. She will be joined again by one of the UK’s most versatile orchestras, The London Concert Orchestra, under Musical Director Anthony Inglis for the majority of the tour.

Whilst busy getting ready for Christmas she took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what she had to say.

Hi Katherine how are you?

I’m good thanks, busy but good. More to the point how are you today?

I’m very well thank you and before we move on let me firstly thank you for taking the time to speak to me once again today.

Not at all, thank you for your time. It’s always a pleasure speaking to you.

And just how is life treating you?

Life at the moment is really good thanks. For me it is a lovely time. It has been four years since I recorded my last album and I have to say that a lot has happened in that time. I got married round about the same time that the last album came out, I have had two children and I am now feeling very happy, settled and thankful which is why I thought that was a good sentiment to take with me into the studio.

I have been playing your latest album Guiding Light for the past few days and I have to say that I absolutely love it.

Thank you, that is so nice of you to say.

I can tell from the tone of your voice the answer to the next question but I will ask you anyway, are you happy with the album?

Yes I am, I am really happy with it. It was such a lovely album to make. Don’t get me wrong I have enjoyed making all of my albums but I really did know that there was something really special about this album. We have been working on it since January; I had done all of the preparation work for the album prior to having the baby. After Xander was born I was able to take him in to the studio with me whilst I was recording the vocals. He was so portable because he was so dinky and he would sit in his car seat whilst I would sing to him. And I just think that things like that really did create a lovely atmosphere. I don’t know if it is now being a mum and having a strong set of priorities but it has really made me choose my music differently for this album. It is no longer about all of the high notes that I can hit, or about all of the opera stuff, it is about what music moves me, what music am I spiritually drawn to. I now hope that if the music touches my heart then it will touch the listener’s heart.

You have mentioned that it is four years since you recorded and released your last album Home Sweet Home. Does it feel good to be back in the recording studio?

Yes it does, it was really lovely. What was especially nice about it was with me still being very much in that time, still being in that baby bubble, I was able to record the album pretty much on my schedule. Who am I kidding it was on Xander’s schedule (laughter). For me, just to be back in the studio making new music really was a great feeling as it is really unusual for me to take time off from that. I really have missed everybody so it was nice for me to come back knowing that I am going to be touring, playing the new music, seeing everyone face to face, and for me to get out there and meet everybody once again.

I have to say that I love Peace In The Valley, I think that what you have done with it is fantastic.

That’s so nice of you to say; that really is one of my favourite songs on the album.

Having said that I also like Morning Has Broken which you have recorded with Sir Bryn Terfel. What is it like working with Bryn?

What can I say, Bryn really is amazing. When I first met Bryn I was fifteen years old, he was the soloist and I was in the National Youth Choir Of Wales and we were performing The Messiah. I can still remember taking my music satchel up to him and saying “Mr Terfel would you sign my satchel please” (laughter). I tell Bryn every time that I see him that I have still got it from when I was fifteen years old. So you can imagine just how crazy it is when I was recording Morning Has Broken with him, standing at the back of the recording studio, laughing and joking. I so admire his voice; he really is incredible. Bryn was also at my first performance back after having Xander when I was performing at the Classic Brits at the Royal Albert Hall. I had Xander with me and he started to cry and Bryn literally whooped him out of my arms, and took him into his dressing room. I sort of followed behind, and he started singing to Xander. Xander immediately stopped crying and looked up at this gentle giant who was singing to him. Within two minutes Xander had fallen to sleep (laughter).

Everyone is currently raving about your moving cover of Stormzy’s Blinded By Your Grace. Whose idea was it to include that on the album?

It was actually my idea. I knew that I wanted the album to be quite traditional and feature hymns that people would know and expect me to sing but I also think that it is nice to have a wild card and that was Blinded By Your Grace. I knew the original song but it wasn’t until I read the lyrics that I realised that the song was really spiritual. At that point I hadn’t realised that Stormzy was a very strong Christian. I just felt that the song fitted into my idea of the album perfectly. However, putting it together was easier said than done because as you know Stormzy performs the song as a Part One and a Part Two; they are in fact two very different songs.

So I had to merge the two songs together, write an orchestral accompaniment for both the Gospel Choir and the Children’s Choir, plus I managed to get my daughter to feature on the track. She says “Blinded By Your Grace” right at the very end of the track. After all of that it really did became a very special song to me. I’m sure that you will agree that my version is so far removed from the original, it doesn’t sound anything like the original. Having said that I think that it works really well. So I am actually really pleased that we stuck with it, and tried it.

Have you received any feedback from Stormzy with regard to your version?

No I haven’t. But I honestly do feel that it is only a matter of time before we get some feedback. I hope he likes it. It’s not meant to be a competition; it is merely my own interpretation of a great song.

I have read through the lyrics and I have to say that they really are beautiful.

Yes they are, they really are. We have just filmed a Songs Of Praise special which goes out next Sunday I believe, and I talk about the song in context and those lyrics that really do mean a lot. It’s interesting when you look at the lyrics, and whether you are religious or not, it’s all about having something there that senses you and brings you back. And I really do feel that is a nice sentiment.

I have to ask you, is there a Rock Chic waiting to be released (laughter).

(Laughter) no there’s not. Rest assured I won’t be doing a Grime album anytime soon (laughter).

So we won’t be seeing you covering AC/DC anytime soon?

No not at all (laughter).

The album has only been out for a matter of days and already your fans are saying that it is your best work to date. Would you agree with that?

I have to say that it is really lovely to hear that and I am really proud of the album. When one person says it you think ‘that really is a nice compliment’ but when it is the overwhelming response from everyone who has heard the album, then that just makes me really happy. It was recorded during a special time; family time, so making music during that period of time will always be so very special to me, and has made many memories that I will continually be looking back on. So it really does make me feel good when I hear that people are saying that about the album.

You will be touring the album here in the UK starting next April. Are you looking forward to being back out on the road?

Yes I am, I can’t wait, I really can’t wait. My favourite thing is to be out there on the road performing the music live. That is what I live for. For me to see just how my music affects different people on the night really is what I live for. I really can’t wait to bring the frocks, the fun, the orchestra and everybody to the audiences; it really will be a good laugh.

You will be performing here in Nottingham at The Royal Concert Hall on Friday 17th May. Do you enjoy your time spent here in Nottingham?

Yes I do, I really do. I have been back to the Royal Concert Hall many, many times and I have to say that it is probably the one venue that I have played the most here in the UK in terms of the theatres and concert halls. That’s not just a fluke, it’s because I really do love coming back. The audiences up there in Nottingham are always so much fun that they make me want to come back. I am really looking forward to returning.

On the subject of the forthcoming tour, will you once again be joined by The London Concert Orchestra, under the careful eye of Musical Director Anthony Inglis?

Yes of course, I can’t go anywhere without them (laughter).

I have to tell you that once again I will be reviewing your Nottingham show and hopefully taking a few photographs.

That is brilliant and you really must come and say hello afterwards.

Thank you, I would love to. And on that note Katherine let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been delightful.

Thank you Kevin, you have a lovely Christmas and I will see you next year. Bye for now.